The claim that it was just intended to be a trading block demonstrates ignorance of historical fact.
In 1931 two books entitled "The United States of Europe" were published by French politician Édouard Herriot and by British civil servant Arthur Salter. More famously the term "United States of Europe" was used by Winston Churchill in a speech delivered on 9 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. He concluded that: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living".
The voters of 1973 and 1975 knew, or should have known, this was the intention and they went for it.
I'm aware of all that, and I had a letter published in the Guardian on that subject.
During the referendum debate (PM rocked by record rebellion as Europe splits Tories again, 25 October), it was asserted by speaker after speaker that the "sovereignty" implications of joining the EU were from the start hidden from the public.
This would have taken some doing, given the opposition to joining of the Labour frontbench and articulate Tory backbenchers like Enoch Powell. In fact, the matter was dealt with in the white paper and other publications issued by the Conservative party – one of them entitled Sovereignty in the Common Market. Elsewhere, Alec Douglas-Home, holding the less than obscure position of foreign secretary, suggested that "anyone who had the stamina … to read a year of speeches … by ministers … would find that they constantly return" to the political case for entry; in the pamphlet Our European Destiny, Douglas-Home agreed with Powell that "our application is a step of the utmost political significance".
Such "deception" compares rather well with the way in which the Tory party lied about their NHS plans at the last election.
But the fact is all that was also true in 1975, and a referendum was held. What's so different about now? If the 1975 poll is some irrelevance that shouldn't have happened, why do pro-EU refer to it as significant? (As Abernathy did up there). You can't draw legitimacy for the EU from the result of that referendum and deny another one. Even if the direction of travel towards political union was clear from the start, I don't think it's silly to hold one now to see if people approve of the destination now we're here.
I've never liked referenda because I prefer parliamentary democracy. However, UK wide referenda have been held, on the EEC in 1975 and on AV in 2011. And referenda have also been held in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I don't think I can argue any more that referenda aren't part of the way we do things.